Happy Moose: JEDI In Action
“[JEDI] means being proactive to make sure you’re a positive agent of change, and using your platform to lift other people who have historically not have had the same opportunities as you.“
In our new series, we profile local companies to learn about their commitments to integrate Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) into the fabric of their company. Ryan Armistead, CEO and co-founder of Happy Moose Juice, spoke with us on what JEDI means to a small pressed juices company based in a historically Black and low-income neighborhood in San Francisco. Prepare to be inspired!
Tell me a bit about Happy Moose.
We started Happy Moose back in 2013, so we’ve been in business for over 8 years now. Ever since we launched our business we’ve been producing out in the Bayview Hunters-Point community in San Francisco. Doing things on a bootstrap budget was how we got started. And then we activated a wholesale line of our offering with a manufacturing partner; our primary farmer in the Central Valley. How we explain it is: We craft press juices and functional wellness shots, from up-cycled heirloom produce that we source direct from family farms predominantly here on the West Coast of California.
When we started it was just my co-founding partner Phoebe and I, so we were pressing juices, literally working around the clock. Sometimes we’d be pressing juice for 24 hours a day.Today we’re a small team of seven, still bootstrapped, but have been able to effectively grow to where it is today: a little over $2 million in sales on an annual basis.
What does JEDI mean to you?
The food and beverage industry has not really kept those values [Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion] front and center. It means being proactive to make sure you’re a positive agent of change, and using your platform to lift other people who have historically not have had the same opportunities as you.
I’m a white male, so for me it means doing what I can to ensure that I’m including other people who identify as something different from me, in what I’m doing. It means finding people who might have been marginalized in those systems historically, and trying to reach out to them and figure out how you can support them in ways they want to grow, or just be heard, or a part of a scene. It means ensuring other people have a voice, a platform, and an opportunity to grow in the ways that I have.
Can you tell me more about some of Happy Moose’s JEDI initiatives?
It all starts with our mission: to cultivate smiles in [everyone] we come into contact with.
We’ve been based in Bayview Hunters-Point since our inception. It’s a historically low-income, Black community that is dealing with gentrification and all of the various things that low-income communities deal with in San Francisco. Being based there, and producing a product that has a health benefit and feels premium, it kind of felt like this polarizing kind of product for where we were. Originally we had a more affluent target consumer base: people who could afford pressed juices. As we grew as a business, we had this never-ending desire to connect with our community where we were operating to try and make a positive impact in some way.
“Bayview Hunters-Point is a historically low-income, Black community that is dealing with gentrification and all of the various things that low-income communities deal with in San Francisco. As we grew as a business, we had this never-ending desire to connect with our community where we were operating to try and make a positive impact in some way.”
We thought, we can use Happy Moose juice to create joy for people who may be marginalized, who may need a smile in their day. Because smiles don’t come easy for a lot of people, based on life circumstances. So that was the idea for Juice for Joy.
Instead of just giving our money away, we wanted to get to know people, to cultivate relationships. For us that meant taking the time to get to know people in the community and connect with them personally.
Being in Bayview-Hunters Point, it made sense for us to reach out to the Boys and Girls club so we could connect directly with kids who live in the community. The first few months we started showing up every week to get to know the kids and play basketball with them. The idea that came to fruition as we were building a relationship with them was, “What would it look like for the kids to learn how to create their own natural, organic food product?” So we thought, “Let’s create a product together! [We’ll] have you guys come in and learn every step associated with what it’s like to launch your own food or beverage product.”
We started from scratch with market research, tried some different recipes, and utilized some of our partnerships to taste test. The kids learned everything from financial planning, to sourcing, to marketing, to sales, to presentations. They got hands-on experience with a real life scenario of everything it took to make the business operate. We donate 20% of all the profits from every bottle sold back to the club house, and then in addition to that, we were able to secure a grant from the city of San Francisco to help fund this program.
We’re trying to create this playbook that can be taken and replicated in the different geographical areas where you can bring in a food manufacturer or brand that can walk kids through that process of creating their own product.
The kids have found a lot of value in it. A lot of these kids are going straight from high school into the workforce. Hopefully one day they have these little nuggets of experience that they can take to realize their own dream of starting their own business. So that’s the big part of our Juice for Joy program: the entrepreneurship program with the Boys and Girls Club in Bayview-Hunters Point.
When the pandemic happened, we saw an opportunity to expand the program beyond our neighborhood and impact the local community. We noticed that a part of the community that was super marginalized during this pandemic was the unhoused community. They seemed to be the most exposed to the dangers of the pandemic. We partnered with other great organizations like City Hope, St. Anthony’s, Glide, and other nonprofits, to distribute the juices to the constituents that they’re serving on a daily basis.
If you can do something to make someone feel good or smile, you get fulfillment in seeing that other person experience joy.
How do you envision these initiatives paying off in the greater natural products industry?
There’s such a discrepancy in what people have access to in terms of food and nutrition. We’re bringing more access to healthy nutritional foods just because of the nature of the product that we work with. It’s not just the kids having the upward mobility to make some extra income or get the entrepreneurial experience that they might not have access to through their personal network, but [helping them] understand how you can eat delicious healthy foods that impact your health. That’s definitely this secondary goal that’s come about because of the product we’re working with. The vision is to bring natural, healthy, organic foods to these communities.
What’s your relationship been like with Naturally Bay Area?
Connecting with other people in the space who are like minded is really important. And having additional resources, learning from other founders, sharing experiences, and having that camaraderie has been what’s drawn me to it the most. Meeting other people in the CPG space was exciting and felt really gratifying. At first it was really hard to connect with people. We didn’t know anyone and we had this desire to connect with other people and create community. Cultivating community was really important to us.
Interested in sharing your J.E.D.I. journey? Reach out to our team at email@example.com.